Learning how to schedule patients for the most efficient production in your dental practice does not need to be hard. Just take this lesson from Coach Dean Smith of UNC.
As a high school basketball player in North Carolina, I always dreamed about playing at the University of North Carolina for legendary basketball coach Dean Smith, who coached the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997. Unfortunately, a 5’11” power forward has little chance of playing for the most elite college program in the nation. Combine my height with the fact that I spent the majority of my time watching from the bench, and it’s a good thing that I was a better student than athlete.
I attended UNC for both undergrad and dental school. At one point, I got close to playing in the Smith Center, but that’s a different story for another day. In Chapel Hill, I learned dentistry from world-renowned instructors. But as we all know, dental school does not prepare us to be successful practice owners and operators. We gain those skills after we graduate by attending courses, using consultants, and reading about the management of dentistry.
When we start out in practice, we’re so excited to treat people that we don’t care what the procedure is or where it’s scheduled. We’re happy when our day is packed full of dentistry, even if the scheduling is haphazard and we’re double- or triple-booked. Our progression in practice then goes to wanting to control the chaos. First, we explore block scheduling and daily production templates. We often do this without effectively communicating with or educating our staff about how to schedule while staying just as productive. Next, we pay a consultant to educate our staff about how to achieve production with controlled scheduling. I went through most of this in my practice, and I still was not happy.
Allow me to go back to Carolina basketball. While I never played for Coach Smith, I got to know a few of the players and followed the program as much as any diehard fan. I always knew that Coach Smith was the best basketball tactician there ever was, but I also saw how he translated basketball lessons into life lessons for his players.
The GOAT (greatest of all time) UNC basketball player is Michael Jordan. One of my favorite Jordan quotes was his response to a comment about Dean Smith, indicating Smith was the only person to hold Michael Jordan under 20 points per game. Jordan replied that he actually averaged 20.2 points per game as a junior and that it was Dean Smith who showed him how to average 32 points per game. He said that most people believe you have to score in bunches to reach 32 points per game. But Coach Smith taught him that it’s as simple as 8-8-8-8—eight points per quarter for four quarters. Once Jordan accepted that, the game became easier for him.
This is the same conversation I have with my staff and scheduling coordinator. I see too many practices try to do all of their production in big chunks. This results in an uneven schedule, where some days are way too busy and people have to work through lunch or stay late, while other days they’re left sitting around with little or nothing to do.
My point to my staff is that if our production goal is $80,000 per month, the simple way to achieve this is to try to schedule $5,000 per day for 16 days. If we have two hygienists each producing $1,200 per day, then the restorative side needs only to produce $2,600 to achieve our target. This $2,600 can be achieved with a couple of crowns, or a crown and a few fillings, or a root canal, night guard, and a couple of fillings. You get the point. It is simpler than you think if you strive for consistency each day.
Who knew that Dean Smith knew so much about successfully managing a dental practice? While dental education is a multimillion dollar industry with numerous recommendations about how to be productive, sometimes all we need is to understand that applying life lessons to our practices can help us achieve work and life balance. Dean Smith showed me that dentistry does not have to be a 30-year sprint. Instead, it can be a slow, 30-year jog that leaves our lives enriched.
Mustafa Shah-Khan, DDS, is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, where he served on the board of directors for the dental alumni association. He is CEO and founder of Synergy Dental Partners, and maintains a private practice emphasizing cosmetic reconstructive dentistry in Charlotte, North Carolina. He can be reached at email@example.com.